Issue Date: November 26, 2007
Ari Helenius Awarded Benoist Prize
Ari Helenius, professor of biochemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, has been awarded the 2007 Marcel Benoist Prize for his groundbreaking research in biochemistry. Valued at 100,000 Swiss francs (approximately $90,000 U.S.), the award is regarded as the Swiss Nobel Prize. It has been given annually since 1920.
The award honors scientists working in Switzerland who have made scientific discoveries in disciplines that are of significance for human life. Helenius is best known for his pioneering research on viruses and determining how they gain entry into cells.
It was previously believed that viruses invaded cells through fusion with the plasma membrane. Instead, Helenius found that the viruses are carried by a cellular mechanism to an internal location in the cytoplasm where the lower pH value promotes penetration into the cytosol and eventually the nucleus.
Helenius is also credited with discovering the endosome. Another area of his research involves the quality-control system that newly synthesized proteins, such as hormones and enzymes, have to pass before they are deployed by the cell to perform their function.
Helenius and his colleagues from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich recently founded a biotech company to develop new strategies for antiviral drugs.
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